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    #1

    Past Perfect

    The following sentece is taken from an Entrance examination.
    Students are required to pick up the right word from the three words.

    I lost the pen I ( bought / have bought / had bought ) the day before.

    The correct answer is "had bought ". but one of my students said that "bought " should be also correct.

    How can I expalin to my student.
    I think the sentence " I lost the pen I bought the day before" sounds also all right.

  1. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past Perfect

    Welcome to UsingEnglish.com, Purasana!

    I think "the day before" can serve as a time marker, so the simple past can be used.

    Not a teacher

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Past Perfect

    I agree with Matthew and your student. We often use the past perfect to establish the time sequence of two past events. However, there can be other words in a sentence that establish that sequence. In your sentence "before" does that. Therefore the past perfect is not needed, but the past perfect is still correct. The simple past is also correct.

  3. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Past Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    there can be other words in a sentence that establish that sequence.
    Those words are before, after, ago, back, earlier, later, until, then, already or a date.
    Is it correct?

    Not a teacher.
    Last edited by Matthew Wai; 10-Jun-2014 at 11:58.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Past Perfect

    That is a good list to start with.

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Past Perfect

    I don't think you need 'before' at all to establish the time sequence, assuming that you can't lose a pen until you've bought it.
    "I lost the pen I bought" would, in most cases establish a sufficient time line. In this case, 'before' is a grammatical red herring. In "I lost the pen before I lost the umbrella", "before" is necessary. In some contexts, "I'd lost the pen before I lost the umbrella" would be more appropriate.

  6. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Past Perfect

    I agree about "before" on its own, but the full phrase "the day before" provides additional information. Perhaps the writer wanted to emphasize the short period of time he owned the pen.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #8

    Re: Past Perfect

    Of course. I'm not saying it's a pointless phrase. I'm saying it's not necessary to the absolute time line - though it does quantify it, it has no influence on the order. It doesn't determine whether 'bought' or 'had bought' is needed - which is what the previous four posts were discussing.

  8. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Past Perfect

    Similarly, is nothing needed to establish the time sequence in "I retaliated against Peter who killed my friend" because the killing must have happened before the retaliation?

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    #10

    Re: Past Perfect

    That sentence is ambiguous, Matthew. You might have retaliated for something Peter had done earlier, and then he killed your friend.

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